The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Adam Kron, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3224

Jennifer Peterson, Environmental Integrity Project, (202) 296-8800 X4449

Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 213

Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113 ext. 102

Groups Applaud EPA Action to Reduce Water Pollution from Power Plants

Strong rules could keep millions of pounds of toxic metals out of waterways


In response to action by leading U.S. environmental groups, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking action to keep
pollution from coal plant smokestacks out of America's waterways.

EPA will issue these new rules, which would protect Americans from
millions of pounds of heavy metals and other toxic pollutants, by July
23, 2012, with final rules due by January 31, 2014.

The Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, representing
Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club, put EPA on notice last year
that the new clean water rules were decades overdue, leaving the
American public exposed to heavy metals like arsenic, lead, chromium,
and mercury. Thanks to their work, EPA has agreed to a formal consent
decree, locking in deadlines for these reforms.

EIP attorney Jennifer Peterson said: "These rules were supposed to
have been written nearly 30 years ago--they are not new requirements.
Wastewater treatment is affordable, and our waterways are not a dumping
ground for toxic waste from coal-fired power plants. We appreciate EPA's
commitment to get these long overdue rules back on track."

While EPA is now on a binding schedule to set national standards,
they will not be finalized for several years. In the meantime, the Clean
Water Act requires state agencies to set stringent limits on the
discharge of pollutants from power plants on a case-by-case basis -- a
requirement that states historically have ignored.

"Until EPA finalizes new standards, it's crucial that state agencies
do their part to keep toxics out of our water," said Earthjustice
attorney Abigail Dillen. "We hope and trust that EPA will be cracking
down on permits that allow power plants to dump mercury, arsenic,
selenium into drinking water and fishing streams."

Toxic metals found in power plant wastewater discharges pose serious
health and environmental risks even in very low doses. Arsenic is a
known carcinogen that causes cancer of the skin, bladder and lungs.
Mercury accumulates in fish and, when eaten by pregnant or nursing
mothers, can seriously impact a child's ability to write, read, and
learn. Selenium also gets concentrated up the food chain in fish and
other aquatic life, impeding the growth of juvenile fish and causing
skeletal deformities in offspring.

"Coal ash polluters have gotten a free pass for too long. For
decades, they have been allowed to dump heavy metals and other toxins
into our rivers and creeks, poisoning native fish and the wildlife that
rely on fish and other aquatic species as a food source," said Adam
Kron, staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. "After almost thirty
years, EPA has finally taken a decisive step toward protecting aquatic
species, our local waters, and our way of life by more fully regulating
coal ash pollutants and keeping them out of our waterways."

Power plants produce more toxic waste than any other industry in the
U.S. As companies install pollution controls to meet Clean Air Act
requirements, toxic metals are transferred from the air and become
concentrated in coal ash and wastewater. Without strict federal rules on
power plant discharges and coal ash disposal, the health of local
communities and the environment remain at risk.

"We're pleased to see the Administration working to protect public
health. These rules will help make sure that communities don't pay for
coal industry profits with clean drinking water," said Craig Segall,
Attorney, Sierra Club.


Read more about what Defenders is doing to keep toxic coal ash out of our waterways.

Click here to read the formal consent decree agreed to by the EPA.